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Homeschool Scheduling 101: Planning Your Year

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It’s that time of the year. Kids are out enjoying the sunshine, BBQs are cranked up, and we homeschool moms are stalking the mail for boxes of curriculum, organizing school books, and planning the year’s workload. This series, Homeschool Scheduling 101, is designed to help you get your scheduling done quickly and efficiently–so you can step away from the stack of books and get on with summer fun!

If you’d like a chance to win one of THREE gift cards (each for $200 to Christian Book Distributors), be sure to scroll to the bottom of this article and enter the giveaway!

This month, I am going to work with you step by step to organize and plan out your curriculum, your time, and your home so your school year can run a little more smoothly. Along with tips on scheduling, I am going to share with you some of my favorite time-saving products which help me run my home (and keep my sanity) during the school year.

Scheduling 101 at Only Passionate Curiosity Tips, Tricks, Reviews and Giveaways!

Grab the Forms You Need

Grab our Homeschool Planning Pack, and let’s get started! (The forms you’ll need from this pack are the Yearly Brainstorming (the “big picture” form), Yearly Schedule (to map out your ideal year), and the Curriculum Pacing guide (to divide up your curriculum for the year). The other forms are used in this planning series and in the budgeting week of our Homeschool 101 series. And for those who homeschool year round (or who are interested in learning more about it, you can grab some year-at-a-glance planning forms and some monthly planning forms here.

When I sit down to plan my year, the very first thing I do is determine what kind of schedule we’re going to follow. Some people school for a traditional school year, following a public school calendar. Others do things a little differently. They may choose to do 4-day school weeks, work for 6 weeks and take a week off, or even to homeschool year round! One of the nicest things about homeschooling is that you can do what works best for your own family!

Some states have requirements that the school year consist of at least 180 days of instruction. Check the requirements for your state before you do your planning. (If you’re not sure about the homeschool-related laws in your state, you can learn about them on the HSLDA website.)

The general set-up is important simply because it helps you break down your curriculum in order to decide how many lessons you need to complete each week or each month.

  • If you choose to do school work 4 days a week instead of 5 and want to be sure you finish the curriculum in 36 weeks, you’ll need to do some extra work on one or more of the 4 school days each week. Or you can double up one day a week. (The 5th day each week still counts as school if you do hands-on activities, field trips, or other educational activities!)
  • Or you can do 45 weeks of school doing 4 days a week and simply have one day a week off. (That still gives you 7 additional weeks off for vacations, holidays, etc.)
  • Or you can homeschool year round like I do! We take days off here and there as well as time during the holidays.

Keep in mind that it’s ok if you don’t always finish the entire curriculum each year! Some subjects (like math) build on previous lessons, so it’s important not to skip important lessons. Others can allow for a little more flexibility, and you can skip less important lessons if necessary.

Homeschool Scheduling

Big Picture Brainstorming

First, you’ll want to get the big picture. Look at your calendar and determine the days or weeks you know you won’t be doing school. Do you take a yearly vacation? (This actually can count as part of your school year if you include educational activities and information in your travel! Read this article to find out Why Travel Is Vital for Your Homeschooling Family.) Do you like to have December off for making crafts, baking, and seeing family? (Again, those things can count as part of school too! Math is part of cooking and baking. Crafts can include math skills, following directions, motor skills practice for younger children, and even building social skills!) Or maybe you’ll need to take off some time for sports or other reasons. We like to take off now and then on days when the weather is especially nice just to play outside and spend time together. We allow ourselves some extra days off each year just for this purpose!

If you want to homeschool year round, you can read more about planning the “big picture” for your school year and download some free calendars to help you with planning (both year-at-a-glance calendars and monthly planning calendars), in this article: The Benefits of Homeschooling Year Round (with FREE Printable Calendars!)  Or, if you’d like to use the year-at-a-glance undated planning page (the last page in the Homeschool Planning Pack), you can use that instead! (See the picture below for an example of the year-at-a-glance page being used.)

One more thing to keep in mind is to think about stumbling blocks you may encounter during the year and do your best to plan for them. For example, some families like to take a little extra time off in February or March when it seems like winter is lasting forever and you start to feel burned out. Instead of having to push through when you need a break, schedule some extra time off to do fun activities so you can all feel refreshed for finishing the school year!

Planning your homeschool year with free printables

 

When I use this year-at-a-glance page, I cross out weekends, label holidays in red, and highlight dates when I know we’ll be out of town. After I do those things, I start counting the number of school days and the number of weeks we’ll need to do school. That makes it much easier to see what kind of pace we’ll need to set for each subject. You probably won’t follow this form exactly, but it will give you very close idea of which days you’ll do school, and that will make life easier!

Next, you’re going to get out all the curriculum, supplements, and books you purchased and start plugging them into the plan.

Open up to the table of contents and read in your teacher’s manual to see what the recommended pacing is. If it’s an easy-to-schedule program, it will already be broken down either into 180-ish daily lessons or 36 week-long lessons. If that’s the case, you have it easy! In cases like this, I simply mark down on my master planner that we need to do one lesson a day or one lesson a week (whichever it is) and then put a sticky note on the first lesson in the teacher’s book and student book. I move the sticky note as we complete each lesson to make it easy to locate whichever lesson we’re on. That’s it for planning that book!

If it’s a book with an odd number of chapters, I look it over and first see if there is anything I want to skip. After I’ve done that, I look at the number of chapters/lessons that are left and figure out how many we’ll need to do each day or each week. Write the pacing for each of the programs you are using on a yearlong spreadsheet, which will serve as your master pacing guide for the year.

More examples:

  1. If I was using Life of Fred for the school year and planned on using both the Apples and Butterflies books, I would first count how many chapters there were in these two books (18 in apples + 19 in butterflies = 37 chapters). I would then know I need to schedule about one chapter a week to finish both books in the school year. Because there are 37 chapters (to be done in a 36-week school year), I would probably plan to do two chapters the first week and one chapter a week after that.
  2. If I was using Explode the Code and wanted to complete books 1-3 during the school year, I would first count the pages in the 3 books. Then, assuming we were going to do ETC daily, I would divide by 180 to see how many pages would need to be completed each day.

This works even if you are a unit study homeschooler. For example, I would look at my list of topics I want to study and any materials I gathered (like an electricity unit from Moving Beyond the Page, and a unit on Life in a Castle, and a unit on Community Helpers). Then I would start to schedule them in around the year. For unit studies, I would still leave some “blank” spaces in case you need extra time for a particular topic or want to add something in that you hadn’t scheduled. You can always have some short mini unit studies (We have some here on Only Passionate Curiosity!) on hand to use if you have extra “blank” days. Unit studies do require a bit of on-going planning instead of a one-time breakdown as outlined above.

Scheduling your year- free printable forms and step by step instructions

Hopefully this week you’ll have some time to get these steps done. Keep your list of your programs that you paced for the year, and be ready for next week! We’ll get them scheduled into your week next time and work out a plan to get everything done.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments! If you’re an old scheduling pro, please feel free to share your wisdom with us in the comments, too! Everyone does things a little differently, and we would love to hear your ideas.

Read the Whole Series on Scheduling:

Scheduling your Week
Keeping Kids on Track
How to Stay Sane While Homeschooling
When your Day Doesn’t Go as Planned

It’s Back to (Home) School time, and we have a GIVEAWAY to share with you!

More and more families are joining the ranks of homeschoolers! One of the scary and overwhelming things about making the leap into homeschooling is the financial aspect of it.  Curriculum can be expensive (although it doesn’t have to be). And if you’re living on one income, you need to be even more careful about expenses. While working and homeschooling or being a one-income family is totally doable, it does require some sacrifice, and sometimes that means tightening the budget.

I’ve teamed up with a great group of homeschool bloggers that would like to bless a few homeschool families this year and help lighten the financial load, even if it’s just a little.  We wish we could bless more, but we will be able to give THREE families $200 to spend at Christianbook.com to buy curriculum, resources, and supplies for their homeschools.

To enter for your chance to win, simply use the Rafflecopter form below to enter.  Now I know this is quite a few entries, but each of these bloggers has generously chipped in their own money to make this giveaway possible, so I hope you will take the time to do all of the entries.  And the more entries you do, the better your odds are of winning!

Giveaway ends August 14, 2020 at 11:59pm ET.  Must be at least 18 years of age.  Must be a resident of U.S. or Canada to enter.  Selected winners will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prizes or another winner will be drawn.  By entering this giveaway, you agree to be added to the email lists of the participating bloggers (see the Terms & Conditions on the Rafflecopter form for the complete list).

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39 Comments

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  • I appreciate you sharing this useful information! I am always looking for ways to stay organized while homeschooling.

  • I think that it is important to put information out there to help those who may be new to homeschooling. Thank you for making this available.

  • Thank you for taking the time to share your printable forms and resources. Your method and encouragement are appreciated.

  • Wow! This is such a wonderful post! Thank you so much for helping me figure out how to get a basic plan in place for my first year of homeschooling! I am very much an analytical planner, and while I know flexibility is key and it is important not to try to cram too much into any schedule, there is totally a place for breaking everything down logically as a starting place!

    Rest assured your post sounded very balanced and no one should be judging your personal homeschool structure harshly after just that quick, partial snapshot! Each family is different, and each homeschooling parent’s own personality and the personalities of the kids play a BIG role in what amount of structure will work for each family! If I didn’t plan it out like this, my kids would have gaps for sure! And there might even be days wasted with nothing accomplished because procrastination and avoidance are my downfalls! (and I have an avoider child as well!)

    In addition, I am NOT an outdoors person, but I know getting out is important for the kids. So SCHEDULING in our outdoor time will help me make sure our family has balance! Definitely needed this framework as baby #3 is coming in the middle of the school year, and I need a plan my husband can just pick up and run with while I am recovering and adjusting. Your blog is amazing, and pay no heed to anyone who wants to judge your style without knowing you!

  • Thanks so much for the resources and the explanations. Might I humbly say, however, that you really sound like you are trying to cram wayyyyyy too much into each week/month/year. Unless there is a school official watching your every move at your home, really your homeschooling adventure can look HOWEVER you want it to look.

    I really think you need to plug more PLAY into the schedule! I promise, you won’t miss out on anything if you only end up doing 30 weeks of 4-day weeks, ensuring that you only do a few subjects each day. For example, we tend to do math and language arts every day for 4 days. The 3rd subject rotates between history, science and fine arts. I also do whatever I can to combine language arts with the 3rd subject whenever I can…so, if we’re doing history (for example), the writing portion of the lesson I will count as language arts, which lessens whatever LA the child has to do that day. They still may do some work in their grammar workbook, but writing and cursive are taken care of!

    Your children are honestly not going to retain such a huge slew of things each day and each week. What, then, is the point? You are already teaching them “how to learn”, how to find info they need, and getting a brief summary and introduction to the concepts, skills, etc. With the exception of math (which needs a bit more regular practice and scaffolding), the other subjects honestly will only be vaguely remembered at the end of the year.

    It seems to me, then, that all the rest of it is just “busy work”. I am very much against “busy work” for the sake of feeling I need to justify our lives to someone else. I prefer to get our work done in 3 hours and then have the rest of the day for individual curiosities, hobbies, free reading, or just playing and imagining.

    The “Curriculum Police” only need to see a marked-in form stating the kids did some learning every day for 180 days, and that you addressed all of the key subjects over the course of the year. Kids (and all humans of every age) DO learn every single day – whether from out of a text book, or from just sitting in the grass and watching butterflies flitter around the garden.

    I think 30 weeks of lessons (without pressuring everyone to do “a chapter every week without fail!!!”) is more than enough…let these poor kids enjoy a bit more of a stress-free childhood.

    • I appreciate your comment- but I feel like you judged me a bit harshly. This post doesn’t really go into what we do each week and I did say that we only school 4 days a week with the 5th day reserved for getting out of the house and traveling or going on field trips. The kids get plenty of outside playtime as well (hours a day now that we live in the south!). One can be organized and still have kids who get to be kids. πŸ™‚

      • Well said Heather! Some people feel better about themselves when they can critique others in their perceived “imperfections”. Each family is different and I appreciate the free materials you published to help other women have healthy, happy, successful families. Thank you!

      • What a shame that the 1st comment shown here is the most recent one and it’s one with such a judgmental undertone. So I’m choosing to spend 10 minutes of my day to replace it with a new recent comment of thanks and gratitude. Heather, for the time and resources you have exhausted putting good and useful information out there for parents trying to do the ultimate Cat in the Hat trick by balancing soooo much when it comes to homeschool life, THANK YOU!!! As a mother who doesn’t have the financial resources or the personal ones for that matter to navigate this world of homeschool as efficiently as I would like, I can tell you it is refreshing to have your links and reviews on resources available and accessible. They are much appreciated and so are you!

  • Thank you so much for all the resources that you have worked so hard on and blessed us with in your sharing. I have always purchased my planners, and much of the planner was unused and then I was always wishing it had other things in it. I love how I can get I want to use and leave out the stuff that I don’t. I am using a binder right now, because I am still figuring out exactly what I like and will actually use

  • OK….was wondering if you had a pic of your master curriculum pacing guide filled in? Maybe I’m making it too hard… LOL

    • haha- I bet you are overthinking it!

      I haven’t actually planned this year yet (oh my gosh…) so I don’t have a completed one. But, it’s easy. I promise.

      Pick one subject to start. Write that subject name at the top of a column, and then number the weeks down the left. Then, start filling in a general overview of what you will complete in that week in each of the boxes moving down the page.

      Some curriculums make this super easy- for example, Logic of English has 40 lessons, so I just write “Lesson 1” “Lesson 2” in the boxes down the page.

      Something like Apologia Science is a little more complicated- it takes me more time to break down the page numbers, and decide which activities we are going to do (because doing them all is whack-a-doodle) and I pencil that in.

      The goal then is to have a snapshot of your year. It’s intended to keep you on track and help you see what you need to complete each week to stay on track.

      I go through and X out completed boxes- so, if I finish everything in the week, but we skip science, I’ll X out all of it but the science box, and I’ll see at a glance that I am a week behind in science, and can double up in a following week (just whenever I have time).

      Does that help?

  • Thank you so much for the information! I’m feeling very lost and I have only a couple of days to get this stuff together. The school year begins in July where I am and it really came quicker than I anticipated!! I am so glad to find a secular homeschool mom as well! I started to think that I was the only one who wasn’t homeschooling for religious reasons! Thanks again!

  • I can’t wait to get started on planning the new school year! Thank you for your advice. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost, I’m so happy I found this and I’m just going to take it all one step at a time!

  • This is great! I was trying to convert it to an Acrobat form so I wouldn’t need to print it (just going to fill it all in digitally), but Acrobat won’t let me edit it bc of the document’s password, any chance you could change this? Or privately email me the password? Sorry to be a pain!

    Thank you,
    Amanda Jernigan

    • I’m sorry, I can’t share the password, and as of right now, they are not editable. This is a feature I am working on, which will hopefully be done soon, so everyone can plan a little easier for next school year. Thanks for commenting!

  • This looks really helpful and informative for HSers who work best with detailed planning!

    I am always amazed at HS moms who do so much planning. If I had started off HSing all those years ago thinking I had to do detailed planning, I probably would have felt like a failure and given up and put my kids in school. We would probably horrify structured HS families with how unstructured we are but it works so well for us and the kids have retained their love of learning and of HSing.

    I thought I’d put that out there for any newbies who felt overwhelmed at the prospect of detailed planning, just so they knew you don’t *have* to if it’s not how you work best. πŸ™‚

    ~Alicia

    • Thanks Alicia, im not interested in being detailed planned, im not organized enough for it and when I tried it I wanted to send my kids back to school, so I had to make a choice, spend months trying to figure out how to plan eclectic homeschool, or send them back…

  • I have been searching for scheduling forms and was resigned to making my own, as none seemed to fit my needs. These are perfect, thank you!

  • This was so helpful! I am a newbie and I am so lost! This helps me get a feel for how I need to lay out our schedule. I still get confused as to how to work our homeschool though. Our state requires 180 days at a minimum of 4 hours each day. Goodness I have so much to learn!!!

  • i’m pretty sure i just fell in love with you and how easy you made planning our first year of homeschool. i’m a planner and former elementary teacher but homeschooling and planning all the fabulous learning invitations left me overwhelmed. not anymore. woohoo! thanks!

  • All these tips and forms are great. I’m looking forward to a more organized year coming up. Thanks for the help!

  • Thanks so much for such a detailed post. We have been homeschooling for several years and I found your information very helpful. I downloaded your SOTW schedule and was wondering if I could ask a question…Before each chapter you have the letters R,R,N listed…what is this? I thought maybe read and narrate, but that leaves one N yet to be named πŸ™‚ Thanks again for sharing all of your hard work!!

    • Read, Review, Narrate πŸ™‚ I plugged that in because we had timeline cards I printed from Hannah’s Homeschool Helps Yahoo Group, and we reviewed them each week! HTH!

  • Love love love these forms! I am a group leader for a large groups of homeschoolers and we talk schedule all the time, so I shared this post with them because I think they will love it.

    I did have a question–you gave a link to a secular SOTW printable…but the link doesn’t take me to it. I *like* your FB page but don’t see the download there either…could you help me find it?

    • Lisa- If you click the like button again, it will unlike, and then re-like it. Everything should then pop up. From then on, I think it should stay open. πŸ™‚

  • Thank you for an awesome post! I hopped over from the Military Homeschoolers FB page. I’ll be starting my second year of homeschooling in the fall. I am a former high school teacher and a planner by nature. I plan the same way you describe, by looking at the year and breaking down the subjects into manageable chunks. I couldn’t find a planner that met my needs so I created a GINORMOUS Excel spreadsheet that includes sheets for goals, curriculum annual overview, weekly lesson plans, to-do lists to prep for each week, and a few other things. I’ve considered offering it on my blog, but I’ve really let the blog fall by the wayside.

  • This is the most helpful homeschooling post I’ve read! I’m a newbie, my daughter doesn’t even “have” to start kindergarten until Fall of 2014. But I’m wanting to try and get into the swing of things this year, and this totally helps!

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